Visual and Performing Arts and Active Learning

Children are active learners who thrive when given opportunities and challenges, so art experiences for children are more about the process than the product. We often think of performing arts with children having to take place on a stage. But, music, drama and dance are some of the experiences we can give children that tap into their natural desire for active learning through their senses. By singing, dancing, and imagining, children are able to express themselves in ways that are natural for their level of curiosity.

Some of the most meaningful of these types of classroom experiences are the easiest to accomplish! Re-enactment of a favorite book becomes a lesson in understanding characters in a story and its sequence of events. One of my favorites was the Three Billy Goats Gruff. My students were always able to come up with a way to make a bridge for the goats to “trip-trap” across. Watching classmates imitate voices from Little Billy Goat to the biggest always brought howls of laughter. Being the nasty old troll under the bridge allowed all students to take on the evil persona.

Having puppets available is another easy way for students to practice re-telling a story or imagining one of their own. You can guide your students in a puppet-making craft or purchase puppets for your classroom. [Ideas for making puppets] From finger puppets to hand puppets to puppets on a stick, children can transform their small hands into characters from a book and act out roles and tell an entire story. If you have some shyer students in your classroom, “talking” through the puppet can be a way to encourage participation and increase their comfort with public speaking. [Read more about puppets: Puppets Talk, Children Listen]

Just listening to music can help children connect with emotions. Invite them to label the sounds they hear. Is it exciting or comforting? Happy? Scary? Sad?

Offering children musical instruments can help them understand the different tones they make and allows them to further explore and dramatize emotions as well as other scenarios like weather. Cymbals certainly do sound like thunder!
brother and sister dancing

Dancing is also one of the easiest ways to incorporate performing arts in the classroom. Children love to move and exposing children to all genres of music is enriching and affords them opportunities to hear a wonderful variety. Students can practice their movement skills and use dance to create and communicate meaning.

All these experiences give students opportunities to learn, express themselves, and adopt a love of the arts! Nurture the creativity of young learners creativity and help them build knowledge and skills for life.

About Stephanie Alexander

I am just one of those people who find young children charming, entertaining and fascinating! With my husband David, I’ve raised four successful children with whom we have loving, wonderful relationships. I’ve also been in the world of education for over 25 years in the roles of preschool teacher and director, kindergarten and transitional kindergarten teacher, and, currently, I’m serving transitional kindergarten-second grade students and teachers as an Instructional Service Coordinator with the Shasta County Office of Education. In 2015, I helped start the first Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten Professional Learning Community with 18 teachers participating from Shasta County. I'm excited about my latest job assignment: coaching teachers participating in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant as part of the Reach Higher Shasta organization.
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